Athletes should be aware of how the social relationships associate with sport participation.
Pre-adolescents (10-13) face the challenge of developing "best friend" relationships and gaining acceptance from peers.
Pre-adolescents are figuring out how they are similar to and different from others. They go through a stage during which close relations with same-sex "best friends" are very important. They are very loyal to friends and greatly influenced by what friends think. Unfortunately, young adolescents can also be very exclusive in their peer groups such that those who are different are shunned or mocked. Being accepted and having someone to trust and confide in is of utmost importance. Pre-adolescents must have the opportunity to interact socially with same-sex peers on a regular basis. At the same time, it’s important to participate in an environment of inclusions and acceptance of differences.
Adolescents (14-17 years) face the challenge of exploring who they are and how they fit into the world in which they live.
These young people try to answer the question "who am I?" They go through processes of identity testing and identity formation, often to a point that can be frustrating for the adults which often puts strains on the relationship. Adolescence is a time during which young people "try on" a variety of different identities in an attempt to discover and clarify values while exploring all the possibilities of who they might become as adults. What may seem like rebellion or acting out during this developmental stage, often may be athletes struggling to find identities that fit with their emerging sense of how they are connected to the world. It is important to "try on" different identities as long as they you do not put yourself in danger or compromise too much with your core family values.
Older adolescents (16-19 years old) deal with the challenge of seeking independence and autonomy.
Older adolescents move closer to being independent, autonomous beings: connected to but separate from others, in control of one's life but aware of limitations and boundaries. While complete independence and autonomy are not possible (nor are you ready for it), it is important that the athlete be allowed to make strides. If some autonomy is not allowed and encouraged, any organized sport or activity becomes stale and stagnant rather than a place for opportunity. Feelings of independence and autonomy are derived, in part, from the sense that one has control over his or her life. Being able to have a voice in your athletic development will also make you more accountable.